St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 4th November 2021
Led by Rev Professor Kenneth M Boyd
Welcome to online devotion with St Giles’ Cathedral, today, Thursday the 4th of November 2021
Scripture Reading Psalm 37, verses 7 to 11
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
‘Do not fret… the meek shall inherit the land.’ But it’s hard not to fret when you have no food for your children while the wealthy squander earth’s resources. And what land will there be left for the meek to inherit, as climate change sinks their island homes ever further into the ocean. Isn’t the psalmist being unrealistic – or worse, using religion – ‘Be still before the LORD… wait patiently’ – using religion to keep the poor quiet and in their place, ‘the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate’? Undoubtedly religion has often been used by the rich to keep the poor quiet: but that’s not what the psalmist is doing here. In this and many other psalms the psalmist is speaking from his own bitter experience on the receiving end of the inexplicable cruelty and injustice of this world. And many of the psalms are angry about injustice, not just to the psalmist himself, but to all who are poor and vulnerable. The prophetic tradition to which they belong has again and again inspired practical and political action to feed the hungry and to establish justice. The wonder of it, is that in the face of all the continuing cruelty and injustice of this world, men and women inspired by the prophetic tradition do not give up but keep on trying.
But the reason why they do not give up, I think, is that the human heart cannot finally believe that cruelty and injustice can have the last word. It cannot believe that because, when the human heart stills itself and waits patiently for some light in its darkness, it may catch, however fleetingly, the glimpse of another possibility, the possibility of a deeper reality in which ‘the meek’ do ‘inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity’ – or as Jesus put it, in which the ‘blessed’ meek ‘inherit the earth’. Many who think themselves hard-headed realists, not surprisingly, dismiss this as ‘pie in the sky when you die’. But as the sixteenth century theologian John Owen put it, no one ‘ought to look for anything in heaven but what one way or other he has some experience of in this life’. The glimpse of a deeper reality seen by those who wait patiently for light in their darkness, who ‘wait patiently for the LORD’, that glimpse, if it is sustained in prayer and love, is already heaven beginning to be experienced in the human heart; and it is that experience that renews the courage of the frail and faulty human heart, not to give up, but to go on trying, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly, right on to the end of the road, where the last word, as the first, is with God.
Let us pray.
God only wise, who created us in love,
and in whose image we are made:
enlighten our fallible consciences,
to see more clearly and freely choose
what gives abundant life;
help us to be more honest with ourselves,
kinder to one another,
and attentive to you in the needs of others,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We praise your name with all you have created.
You are present in the whole universe,
and in the smallest of creatures.
We acknowledge the responsibilities you have placed upon us
as stewards of your creation.
May the Holy Spirit inspire all political leaders at COP26 as they
seek to embrace the changes needed to foster a more sustainable society.
Instil in them the courage and gentleness to implement fairer solutions
for the poorest and most vulnerable,
and commit their nations to the care of Our Common Home.
We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ your Son.
O God, who has bound us together in this bundle of life,
give us grace to understand how our lives depend upon
the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity
of our fellow men and women,
that we may be mindful of their needs,
grateful for their faithfulness,
and faithful in our responsibilities to them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen
And now may the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
bless, preserve and keep us and all God’s children,
in the joy, simplicity, and compassion of the gospel. Amen
François Couperin Cromhorne sur le taille